What I learnt from Oktoberfest

liz blog.jpgThe original Oktoberfest occurred in Munich, on October 12, 1810 to commemorate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The event was so successful that the decision was made to renew it in 1811.

Roll on 200 years and the festival, which lasts little over a fortnight, has become so well established that it has even graced the major national gossip columns thanks to Kim Kardashian (and her ample assets) embracing the traditional Bavarian dress.

Munich is also the home of Allianz so what better place for a 38 strong troop of Allianz representatives and regional brokers to go and discuss the possibility of a hard market or something like that. Well I say 38 but it was really 37 as one of the party was me- the only girl present for a three day trip of hard banter and even harder drinking.

I won't lie- when I arrived on the first night to discover the rather extreme male to female ratio I was slightly worried. Would I be able to keep up with the boys or would I manage to fulfill every damning feminine stereotype there is? I had horrible visions of me a few pints down dribbling some inane drivel about the market in an attempt to sound sufficiently knowledgeable, then getting all uppity and drunkenly indignant about some imagined slight that had befallen me or women in general before ending the evening slumped in the corner crying into my rather large pint of Hofbräu. The opportunities to trip up seemed endless.

However, after being described as a "good egg" at the end of the trip, I hope that I managed to hold my own and perhaps even dispel some high-maintenance myths about women and their wiles. While some seemed initially wary of me, many members of the party worked hard to include me and they even courageously saved me from the clutches of some rather intoxicated and amorous German youths. What gents.

That said, being in the minority of one did make me wonder how much the industry has really progressed in terms of equality. Yes women can hold senior positions but when it comes to boozing do most men think birds can't hold their drink and would still rather go out on the lash with the lads?

Maybe women were asked on the trip but declined the generous offer. If so, that is a shame for them as a lot of mutually beneficial relationships appeared to be formed or at the very least bolstered. Love it or hate it, the industry is social and drinking is part of its innate culture. Therefore it does concern me slightly if women are not being represented at events like these- they happen frequently and it is where business gets done so women should be getting involved.

There's my little feminist soap-box rant over. After all, it was a bloody good trip and Allianz were fantastic hosts. I met some great people that I may never have otherwise had the opportunity to speak to. I laughed. A lot. Especially when...ha ha...only joking. If I am going to maintain my honorary bloke status then one thing I have learnt is that what goes on tour, stays on tour.

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